Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

Author Bio ▼

Ian joined Informa (formerly UBM) in 2018 as the Editor of Safety & Health Practitioner. Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming.

Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in business to business trade print media, in the automotive sector. He was Online Editor and then moved on to be the Editor of two publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.

February 18, 2020

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Amazon safety incidents

Amazon safety incidents: GMB Union demands inquiry following ‘600 injuries in the past 3 years’

The GMB has said, in an article published on Mondaythat it’s time for a Parliamentary inquiry into Amazon’s working conditions following reports of 600 serious injuries or near misses in the past three years. In a statement, which SHP has seen, Amazon says it has 40% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing businesses in the UK.

AmazonAmazon gave SHD Logistics, a leading industry news source for the logistics and supply chain sectors, the following statement in reponse to the article from GMB: “Amazon is a safe place to work. Yet again, our critics seem determined to paint a false picture of what it’s like to work for Amazon. They repeat the same sensationalised allegations time and time again.

“Our doors are open to the public, to politicians, and indeed to anyone who truly wants to see the modern, innovative and, most importantly, safe environment we provide to our people. The fact is we benchmark against UK national data, published by the Health & Safety Executive, confirming we have over 40% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing businesses in the UK.”

Examples of injuries reported to HSE from Amazon warehouses include:

  • A worker at a London warehouse was knocked unconscious and stopped breathing following a head injury. The accident investigation report found that ‘the main root cause of this incident was failing to provide a safe working environment.’
  • In Manchester, an Amazon Worker fractured their hand after their fingers got caught in between the station sliding gate and the surrounding gate support.

Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham Erdington, told GMB: “In my 30 years in the world of work I cannot remember any company clock up so many injuries to its workers. I have been inside the giant Rugeley depot and heard first hand from frightened workers of the 77 serious incidents in Rugeley alone.

“Amazon purports to be a 21st century company. It behaves like a 19th century millowner. Amazon owner, the American billionaire, Jeff Bezos, should be called to account by Parliament for his actions.

“How can he or Amazon justify refusing to talk to their workers’ union, the GMB, on safety? Their behaviour is disgraceful.”

Treating workers like ‘robots’

In 2018, the GMB highlighted several Amazon safety incidents and accused the company of treating its UK warehouse workers like ‘robots’ after it published a series of figures relating to health and safety. The trade union said figures showed more than 440 serious incidents had been reported to the HSE since 2015.

According to the GMB, there were 80 RIDDOR reports in 2015/16, 114 in 2016/17, 149 in 2017/18 and 99 in 2018/19 – making a total of 443.

At the time, GMB General Secretary, Tim Roache said the figures “give a horrifying insight into their warehouses”.

“Amazon is treating workers like robots, not humans,” added Mr Roache. “This is a multi-billion-pound company owned by the richest man in the world. You have to ask yourself whether it’s a deliberate decision to sacrifice safety to keep the bottom line growing, because I can’t see why else you’d tolerate these conditions.”

The 2018 statement referenced reports the union had acquired which highlighted several key incidents, including:

  • A London forklift driver crashing into a column, almost causing a floor to collapse;
  • Dundee staff being forced to work in freezing conditions;
  • A Leicestershire worker being knocked down and wedged under a heavy goods vehicle;
  • Complaints that Peterborough delivery drivers were forced to wait for eight to 10 hours in unheated room;
  • Complaints that Amazon and contractors ‘create an environment of fear to speak out in matters that risk lives and the lives on the road’.

Labour’s Shadow Works and Pensions Secretary, Jack Dromey, said the technology giant was “guilty of behaving like a 19th century mill owner” and putting “workers at risk in pursuit of profit”.

“Jeff Bozos should hang his head in shame,” added Mr Dromey. “His company should meet the GMB to sort what is a national scandal.”

Speaking at Safety and Health Expo 2016, Amazon’s Director of EU EHS, Graham Finn, said Amazon wanted to be “the best place to work for all skills and expertise levels”.

“We insist on high safety standards and we automise wherever possible,” he stated.

Mr Finn added the company invested extensively in risk-reduction technology such as vehicle wheel locks, and was “passionate about housekeeping” with daily auditing and significant investment in training.

In response to the 2018 report, Amazon released a statement to say that it had eight warehouses or ‘fulfilment centres’ in the UK in 2015 and today there are 17.

It added according to RIDDOR, Amazon has 43% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing companies in the UK.

“Amazon has created more than 25,000 good jobs with good pay and benefits across Britain and we are proud of the work they do on behalf of customers every day,” the statement added.

“Safety is one of the reasons LinkedIn recently ranked Amazon #7 on its UK Top Companies list.

“We encourage you to compare our pay, benefits, and working conditions to others and come see for yourself on one of the public tours we offer every day at our centres across the UK.”

Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

This free director’s briefing contains:

  • Key points;
  • Recommendations for employers;
  • Case law;
  • Legal duties.
Barbour EHS

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David Lloyd
David Lloyd

Well done the GMB for saying what needed to be said

Steven Nagle
Steven Nagle

Maybe they should visit Tesco and other such god-awful organisations next! I suspect their reports would say similar things.

Ian Wightman
Ian Wightman

Amazon are currently advertising for Health & Safety Advisors for new depots in the North East good luck to those who geet the job, you’re going to need it.

Karl Spencer
Karl Spencer

This should be further evidence, breaches in health and safety should again receive an increase.

443 RIDDORs in 5 years, surely is not doing ‘So Far As Is Reasonably Practicable’ in preventing harm.